Is trekking with achy knees becoming a problem for you? Then you need to know how to reduce knee pain when hiking. Luckily, we’ve pulled together 17 tips so you can reduce and manage the pain to keep you out on the trail longer.
Trekking with achy knees
It’s important to remember not to push yourself too far. You should always seek medical advice if you are in considerable pain. And refrain from doing anything too strenuous if it’s going to make the problem worse.
Ligament tears and conditions such as tendonitis need medical attention and rest. If you don’t give them enough time you could aggravate the injury making it much worse in the long term.
However, many people with no specific medical condition get knee pain when on the trail. And there is plenty you can do to avoid trekking with achy knees.
Causes of achy knees hiking
There are multiple possible reasons for achy knees, but a common offender is the IT band. This is a connecting tissue that runs up the exterior of the leg from below the knee to the hip. This can rub on the knee joint causing pain on the outside of the knee.
Other likely causes are weak glutes and hip flexors caused by too much sitting during the day. However, it could also be that you are trekking in the wrong kind of footwear. Or boots that do not fit properly, or suit your gait.
For many people the knee pain is simply caused by inflammation from doing something you don’t normally do. The repetitive action and regular impact slowly builds up and swelling occurs that can range from mildly painful to agonising.
Tips to reduce knee pain when hiking
The key to reducing knee pain is to try and identify what is causing the issue and then work to address this. But when trekking with achy knees sometimes you also need additional help.
Here are some things you can do to reduce knee pain when hiking.
Stretch and warm up before a hike
We associate warming up with more intense forms of exercise. But no matter what kind of training or activity you do, stretching can be very effective.
If you stretch and warm up the leg muscles before you set off it can help to reduce knee pain when hiking. This is because tight muscles put more pressure on the knees.
It may seem obvious, but it is one of the most overlooked preventative measures. If you don’t drink enough joints have less moisture for lubrication which means more friction so they start to ache.
So, make sure you carry plenty of water and drink at regular intervals. A hydration pack such as the Camelbak Rogue means you both carry more and drink more often.
There is no such thing as vitamin I. However, when I talked to my Doctor about trekking with achy knees he recommended taking Ibuprofen before I hike. Then to take some again at lunch and if I need it after a hike.
My knee pain comes from inflammation due to repetitive impact. As Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory it helps reduce knee pain when hiking by stopping swelling before it begins.
Natural anti-Inflammatory creams
Suffer from inflammatory knee pain when trekking but don’t like to take medicines? There are various natural anti-Inflammatory creams that are reputed to do a good job. Ingredients often include arnica, devil’s claw, calendula, St John’s wort, peppermint oil etc.
Another option is to use a CBD topical cream. It is perhaps slightly more controversial but many people swear by them. Josh Quigley who is cycling around the world uses it for aches and pains so they would also help when trekking with achy knees.
An extra 50g on your feet can feel like 100g on your knees. Avoid big, clunky and old-fashioned hiking boots and opt for a modern lightweight options. It’s worth investing in some good quality trail shoes as you get what you pay for.
Better fitting footwear
Poor fitting boots or trail shoes will lead to you changing how you walk which affects your knees. Ever noticed that if you get a blister on one foot you also get pain on the other side of your body – often the knee? This is because you change how you walk and over-compensate.
Lighten your load
The more you carry the greater the impact on your knees. So lighten your load and your knees will benefit.
The benefits of hiking poles have been written about at length over the years. If you don’t believe us, then a quick bit of research will surely convince you.
Invest in a good quality pair, learn to use hiking poles properly and always take them with you. I personally always use them on the downhills as it reduced the impact on the knees by taking a little weight off.
You will be surprised how much of a difference a neoprene knee support can make. Offering varying degrees of support and in many different styles you can get one that suits your injury to help reduce knee pain when trekking.
Know your limits
It may have been possible to bounce up the trail leaping from rock to rock in your younger days. But the truth is that none of us are as young as we were, and we need to accept this reality.
If your body is telling you something, you need to listen. So, if you’re in pain on the trail, take it easy. Don’t overstretch or jump, take your time and set a reasonable pace and if possible reduce the distance.
I have put this last as it should be a final option. Using pain relief can make the last few miles of a trail manageable. So always have some paracetamol or other pain relief in your pack.
Just remember, if you take some pills so you are no longer trekking with achy knees the problem has not gone away. You still have knee pain you just can’t feel it so use this as a last resort to get you home.
Reduce trekking knee pain long term
There are also some long term things you can do to reduce knee pain when hiking.
Trekking with achy knees often occurs because we don’t go hiking very often. Our body simply isn’t used to spending so much time walking. So you need to train your body to cope with a day on the trail.
This is most easily done by walking more. Walk to work, take weekend hikes and slowly increase distance and duration. Of course this method is not to be used when your knees are already aching. Then you should…
As with any injury or repetitive inflammation, time off will help reduce knee pain when hiking. Whether that is taking a day off during a multi day trek, or simply not hiking for a few weeks, rest will help.
Take up yoga or pilates
Regular yoga or pilates really helps to improve flexibility. And with an increased range of movement in your calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads etc there is less pressure on the knees.
Use foam rollers
If you suffer from the IT band rubbing on the outside of your knee then use a foam roller a couple of times a week. A short session focussed on your IT band and glute muscles will make a big difference.
Being overweight puts a lot more pressure on the joints. So if you shed some of your extra bulk your knees will thank you.
Depending on the cause of your knee pain specific exercises can help. Squats are a great for working the glutes and building strength in the thighs which can take pressure off the knees.
Just be careful to strengthen in a balanced way. Which is why it is worth seeing a…
If none of the above are working, then it is a good idea to look into some kind of physical therapy. A physio will be able to identify the causes of your problem and recommend personalised solutions to keep you hiking.
Trekking with achy knees doesn’t have to be the norm. Try the above solutions and you might find the problem gets significantly better or even goes away entirely.
We hope you found this guide to reduce knee pain when hiking useful. Be sure to look at our trekking holiday discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.